The Knowledge of God

“God is portrayed as a mass of vagueness behind a veil of enigmas, and His voice has become alien to our minds, to our hearts, to our souls. We have learned to listen to every ego except the ‘I’ of God.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur 186)

Rebbe Heschel well summarized the sickness that is overtaking the Western world. It has become commonplace to think that ideas about God are non-factual, and thus purely subjective. The biblical record is no longer viewed as history, and therefore its lessons can only have personal implications but cannot command even a minimal assent. So biblical religion is no longer a matter of knowledge. This type of view negates the entire biblical pattern of thought.

According to the Bible knowledge matters. God is a self-aware knowing and knowable Person, not an impersonal force. The rejection of the knowledge of God is one of the chief reasons for the mess humankind is in. As the Apostle Paul put it: “since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). A depraved mind leads to depraved behavior.

The scriptures repeatedly call us to knowledge: In Romans 10:2 Paul refers to those who are zealous for God but ‘their zeal is not based on knowledge.” In Ephesians 4 we learn that the body of Christ is growing toward unity ”in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God.’ First Corinthians 13 tells us that our present knowledge is imperfect, we see “through a glass darkly.”

The Christian churches are called to bear witness to the knowledge of God. This is the view that prevailed in American Christianity up until the present time. To do this there needs to be a fresh call to study and learn the biblical content, and see again that intellect and faith are not enemies but friends when informed by biblical patterns of thought.